The issues leading to the strike by Chicago Teachers last week have prompted a great deal of discussion in education circles about President Obama’s education policies.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a product of the Obama administration, and his push for increased use of test scores in the process of teacher evaluations can be connected back to some of the President’s policy decisions.  Additionally, the largest teachers union in America, the National Education Association (NEA), has been repeatedly critical of the President’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for his support of additional standardized testing of students among other decisions that are consider unfriendly to public educators.  In fact, members of the NEA have repeatedly called for the dismissal of Duncan as a condition of their endorsement of President Obama.

So does this list of grievances result in the endorsement of Mitt Romney by public educators?

Not even close.

It is absolutely true that educators, including me, have been extremely vocal about some of the President’s choices surrounding education.  But the reason that we feel so comfortable speaking our minds is because we are so confident that the President is willing to listen and consider opposing viewpoints.  We are comfortable being openly critical of President Obama precisely because he is the individual we want in office for the next four years.  As we are always teachers first, we have that constant need to educate the President about our concerns as we seek to help him improve his knowledge of public education as we experience it.

And it’s not just our feelings about the President that garner our support.  Vice President Joe Biden often speaks of his strong support for educators, most notably his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, herself a teacher.  Both spoke this past summer at NEA’s Annual Meeting to thousands of appreciative educators.  Together, President Obama and Vice President Biden form a pair who are strong advocates for teachers, even if the teachers don’t always agree with the specific policy choices coming out of Washington.

But Mitt Romney?  Puh-lease.  Romney’s education plans center around allowing (some) students to opt out of struggling schools, instead of providing support to the school for those students who remain in the neighborhood.  Much like his plan for the auto companies, Romney would essentially let the schools go bankrupt as they spiral downward with decreasing funding or diminishing support.

Mitt Romney’s education plan, when coupled with his vocal opposition to public educators, makes this presidential election an easy choice for teachers:

Vote for Barack Obama.

After we re-elect the candidate who actually cares about trying to improve public education in America by implementing programs that seek to fund that change, teachers then need to work to change the President’s policies that we disagree with.

I simply don’t agree with each and every one of President Obama’s policies on education.  In fact, there are a few that I would throw out completely and would relish the opportunity to speak to him face-to-face to help him see the error in his ways.

And the truth is, with President Obama I could truthfully see a teacher having that chance.  But we must re-elect him first.

Teachers, vote for President Barack Obama so that we can work to save public education.

  • Rob


    I appreciate much of what you write. Even when I disagree, I find your comments thought provoking and well thought-out. You’ve been invaluable for the cause of Ohio’s students and teachers since the SB-5 debacle. I thank you for that.

    That said, I’m going to have to disagree with you regarding teachers and teachers unions putting resources into reelecting President Obama. The president is not a friend of teachers. Period. As out of control as Ohio Republicans have been in the last couple of years, there is no doubt that they have been enabled by the President and his policies (primarily RTTT). RTTT gave them bipartisan cover for much of their agenda. “Merit pay” is as much a result of the President’s policies as it is of Governor Kasich’s.

    The difference is that President Obama was supported by teachers and unions. He turned his back on them. Governor Kasich and his Republican crazies in the State House have been attacked by teachers and unions for decades. Money has been poured into campaigns against them (often because of their support for issues that have nothing to do with education). They’re fighting for their own best political interests to break the backs of the unions who have tried to break their backs.

    To me, it’s pretty simple. President Obama betrayed those who supported him. Ohio Republicans are trying to neutralize a group that’s always opposed them.

    Teachers and unions need to change their strategy and pump money and support into politicians, particularly at the state level, who truly support public education, teachers, and the best interests of students, regardless of political affiliation (but, yes, most would be Democrats).

    I don’t like Romney, but at least he isn’t taking teachers for fools.

  • John W.

    I also appreciate Greg’s posts. They are always very insightful.

    I agree with Rob that the teachers should be supporting state candidates if they are choosing to donate their money. While I don’t know much about education policy, I do know that a lot of educators are upset with the Obama administration’s policies in education.

    For me, I am upset that he didn’t come out to more strongly to repeal Issue Two last year. I tried searching for quotes, but I could only come up with a few small quotes from Obama’s press secretary. Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland, and Dennis Eckert spearheaded the repeal, but Obama seemed to shy away from it.

    I will not be voting for Romney. Definitely not. Romney would be horrible for worker’s rights and anybody who doesn’t make over $250,000 a year.

    However, Romney and Obama are not the only other choices. I have to say that Jill Stein from the Green Party seems like a great choice for workers (and her stance on teaching issues seems to be what all teachers and students should want). No, she probably won’t win, but Obama is not guaranteed my vote simply because he is less bad than Romney.

    Like Rob said, I think all workers should be trying harder to get their candidates elected to the state legislature and other positions at the state level.

  • Red Rover

    Great comments on this post. I’ll also be voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party. Many Democrats just seem to have forgotten that they need to earn our votes, not just try to spook us with defeatist lesser evilism. They also need to follow through with their campaign promises. What about being right there with the workers on the picket line, Mr. President? What about passing (or at least *backing*) legislation that makes it easier for workers to form or join unions? Obama has shown that he’s just like other politicians who can give a good speech but ultimately don’t have workers’ interests – that is, the interest of the majority of Americans – in mind.

  • anastasjoy

    Amen, Greg. There is probably no area where I disagree with the Obama administration more than on education. But even when people have disagreed with Obama on an issue, his door has been open to them. In a Romney administration, the door would be locked tight – and the public ridicule and demonization of teachers ramped up a hundredfold. It would be over for public education. We need to focus on how we will break through and change the direction of the discourse during a second Obama term. It won’t be possible if Romney is elected.

    I personally have issues with what I call “purity progressives” on this issue and several others where people think Obama either hasn’t done enough or “hasn’t done anything,” particular on the environment and human rights. No, he hasn’t done everything we want; he has done (or not done) so things that really irritate us. And in this political system, voting for a third-party candidate is NOT a viable option. In some other, more robust multiparty system it might be but in the system we have, you have to put it down as a tick mark in the opposing party’s column, Even more than in 2000, a vote for a Green or Socialist candidate is a vote for Mitt Romney. (To say nothing of the fact that while some of these third party candidates are lovely and passionate, most of them are as qualified to hold the offices they’re running for as Josh Mandel — albeit they’re more honest, although who isn’t.)

    Again, I find President Obama’s willingness to buy into the “reform” movement driven by lust for profit depressing. He did not enroll his girls at Bret Harte or Ray, two schools many of my church and choir friends growing up went to and both of which are walking distance from his home in Chicago. I wonder if he ever stops to think about why he would not consider it (There are good reasons and I don’t fault him for it. With the schools as they are today, my parents — strong believers in public education — would also be sending us to University of Chicago Lab School). I”m sure Emanuel doesn’t.

  • John,

    I am thinking about writing a PB post about this, but I think it is vitally important to recognize that policy changes and voting are only loosely coupled. As an Ohioan, I think it would be extremely poor tactics to vote for Stein, regardless of how much more closely her policy positions align with your desires.

    However, if you live in a state that is definitely going to go to Romney, I would strongly encourage you to vote Stein.

    “Third” parties necessarily have to make inroads at the state or local levels, and they will likely only find success in heavily biased districts. The “safer” a politician is in their district, the better the odds that a challenge from further out on the “tail” will be at gaining significant votes – and the more effective that will be at shifting the net policy preference of the district.

  • John W.

    You make a good point, Brian. I’d like to see that hashed out in a post.

    I just despise the idea that I should vote for the lesser of two evils. I would think that many teachers would feel a sense of disdain as the pull the lever for Obama because of his education policies, which have not been well received.

    What you are saying is that I need to play Henry Kissenger’s game of realpolitik. For just once in my life, I want to vote for the person I agree with!

  • John W.

    Voting for a third party should not be throwing away a vote. The Democrats and Republicans have rigged the country to keep themselves in power, unfortunately.

    The question is “why shouldn’t I vote for the person who seems to have the best policy?” The question is not “which guy do I like a little more?”

  • Matt

    Love Plunderbund and the light it sheds on Ohio.

    However, to claim that this is an either-or choice between these two candidates is nearsighted. It’s clear that on many policies, not just education, the two major political parties are farther to the right than the majority of the population. Neither side is serving us well.

    Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party perhaps?

    I think it’s worth considering.

    And, truly, politicians have gotten us into this mess. It would be insane to think that they would be a solution. We need People Power. We need to make sure people have power. If educators saw how great it was to come together over SB5, then we can mobilize to achieve education reform with real merit–educational reform by the educators who are working for the students. Not from career politicians.

  • Romney is an extremist in all that he says and does. He is not for teachers in any way possible. Obama I may not agree on all that he has done for education as I am a teacher. However voting for a third party at this point is the same as throwing away your vote. At this time there is no third party who has the possibility to win. Only the ability to help some one else not win or win by taking votes from them. As a teacher there is no way in Hades that I would vote for him. He would never listen to what we the 47% and teachers have to say. Obama would. However if we do not share appropriately what we know and in the proper way he will not know what is wrong with some of his policies. As educators we also need to educate parents, elected state officials, elected federal employees, and the PRESIDENT Obama after he is elected.

  • Les

    Nothing drives performance like competition. There’s no doubt that kids who remain in failing schools would be hurt by competition in the short run. It’s also true that simply adding accountability to under performing government schools will not help, given the poor results of No Child Left Behind. If accountability isn’t the answer and, clearly, adding more money won’t solve the problem, then I’m open to trying a competitive model over the status quo. Sadly, the poorest communities are hurt worst by the current system. By the way, it seems that the conversation about schools centers around educators, rather than kids. Seems a little backwards to me.

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